Thursday, 5 December 2013

Forgotten kitchen toys.

Thank you so much for all your e-mails and well wishes, I appreciate them all and promise to always try and reply within a day or two (no, not to those that want to sell me rare but interesting articles at amazing prices), the real ones. Thank you Isobel Conradie from fairest Cape town in South Africa for this week 's inspiration with her question as to whether she can bake that no-knead bread in a slow-cooker/crock-pot. The long  and the short of the matter is , I don't know , but I do want to know .
The dough was mixed yesterday and has been doing its doughy thing since then, so soon we'll find out . I must admit that I have done a bit of reading on the matter and there are recipes, but I would like to bake a successful bread before I will believe it. Unfortunately, you will have to sit through the experiment with.
But first , a little more about Crock-pots also known as Slow-cookers. In 1970 in Chicago , the slow cooking pot was born as the Naxon Beanery All -Purpose Cooker , but the company decided in 1971, wisely, to change the name to Crock-pot. That changed the course of the slow cooking pot forever and it quickly became a world phenomenon. The reason is simple; a basic cooking knowledge and a little space on your kitchen bench is all you need for great food . (Later, I will share one of my favourite crock-pot recipes with you.)
Benefits of a slow cooker
• The cheaper cuts of meat is the best to use. Because of the long cooking process it breaks down the connective tissue (collagen) and turn it into a delicious soft sticky gelatinous morsel of heaven. The gelatin is the stuff that makes the sauce stick to your fingers .
• It is almost impossible to burn food  due to the low temperature at which the pot works .
• It saves lots of time as tonight 's dinner is ready when you get home , all that is needed is a little rice , pasta, Cous-cous or mashed potatoes . (Next time you cook rice, cook a big pot and freeze the excess in meal-size portions.)
• My personal favourite, less dishes.
• You cook good healthy home-cooked meals without having to spend hours in front of the stove.
Disadvantages of a slow cooker
• Due to the long cooking process, some vegetables can overcook and turn into tissue paper. Choose your vegetables carefully and cut into larger chunks and follow this basic rule, longer cooking vegetables to the bottom and quicker cooking vegetables to the top.
• I always prefer to use canned beans in my slow crock-pot. There are some (dried) beans that need a hot cooking process of at least 10 minutes to get rid of toxins and the slowness of crock-pots might not do that. (It's almost like mushrooms, if you're not sure, buy a good reliable mushroom rather than eating one you picked in the wild.)
Now enough of all the boring bits, I want to bake bread .... try .... in a crock-pot.
The dough, as in my previous recipe, has risen , rested and was formed on baking paper. The slow cooker is preheated to its highest setting . All crock-pots is unfortunately not the same when it comes to heat adjustments and it might take longer or shorter in your pot.
I baked the bread for 1 ½ hours and then measured the internal temperature. It was not the desired 95c and I left it for another half hour. Two hours later, a delicious bread. I would have liked a more crispy crust, but I will certainly do it again . (I suspect it will also used a lot less energy than the oven.)

Guilty secret - If bread machines did not leave such a horrible hole in the bottom of bread, I would have baked all my bread in them.

Lets try out a crock-pot bread.

1. Dough formed, rested and ready on the baking paper.

2.Snugly in the pre-heated Crock-pot.

3. Two hours later, the bread is done. The bottom is golden brown, but the top is almost rubbery.

4. A few minutes (8 minutes) under the ovens grill fixed that.

All taken into consideration, I think this was a success and I will do it again.

Now on to this weeks recipe.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks.


  • 6 Lamb shanks (+/- 2.5 kg)
  • 2 large onions - rough dice
  • 6 - 8 cloves of garlic - bruised and chopped
  • 5 - 6 cm piece of ginger - finely chopped or grated
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (7 ml) Coriander seeds - grind it yourself
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (7 ml) Cumin seeds - grind it yourself
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried fine ginger
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (I like a Spanish one)
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup prunes - make sure the stones are removed
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 to 1.5 L of chicken or vegetable stock - (or water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste. (I salt and pepper my shanks well before cooking and find that it is enough)

Construct your pot this way:

  1. Place halve the onions in the bottom of you pot;
  2. Place shanks on top of the onions;
  3. Place the rest of the onions, together with the garlic on top of the shanks;
  4. Top with the dried fruit;
  5. Sprinkle spices over;
  6. Mix tomato puree with the stock and add to the pot, trying to wash the spices into the rest of the ingredients. 
  7. Either cook on low for 6 - 10 hours or on high for 5 - 7 hours. Do remember that crock-pots differ, so please adjust your cooking time to your pot.

Hints and tips:
  • Serve on Cous-cous, rice or mashed potatoes.
  • Be warned, because it is so tasty, make sure that there are 2 shanks per adult (even ladies).
  • This recipe works very well with beef too.
Please keep writing to me at I really enjoy your mails.